Supercross’ Trey Canard samples Honda IndyCar simulator (VIDEO)

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The Monster Energy AMA Supercross bike series made its way to the Midwest this past weekend, heading to Indianapolis. KTM rider Ryan Dungey won Saturday night’s race at Lucas Oil Stadium.

As part of the weekend, in a cross-promotion between IndyCar and Supercross, Honda organized a get-together with one of its Supercross riders, Trey Canard, and two of its IndyCar drivers, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, at the home of its Indianapolis-based IndyCar simulator.

Canard has been unable to race this year due to injury but the Oklahoma native is on the mend and should be back shortly on his No. 41 Muscle Milk Honda. But he did get a chance to sample the simulator while in Indy, running at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, to provide him a shot at driving a piece of four wheeled-machinery.

“It’s different because you’re not using your whole body. Having to control the whole feel (of the car) between your two hands is definitely different,” Canard told MotorSportsTalk. “We’ve all driven different road cars before, and we’ve all had a steering wheel in our hands at some point. It’s really fun. You feel the whole car moving underneath you, and turn it. It was awesome.”

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Pagenaud’s pointers as Canard suits up. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

Before Canard’s pair of runs, Pagenaud and Newgarden offered up some notes and pointers. Once they saw Canard actually take the reins of the simulator, the two rising IndyCar stars were impressed.

“He just did a great job. He impressed right away on the second lap,” Pagenaud said. “He had a squirrely moment since he was not used to a steering wheel in his hands. But knowing how tough it is to catch it. He improved lap after lap, was aware of the environment, and knew how to exploit it. On a bike, there’s not much in the way of braking. Overall, he was very impressive and up to speed quickly.”

Canard described how he improved from his first session to his second one.

“First off I’ve never experienced anything like that before, having the downforce,” he said. “My first one I had a really hard time with the braking. I broke at an angle rather than straight. I would come into the turns with using too much track. In the car, you learn quickly you have to brake straight, and then turn. The downforce is the thing I was able to deal with better the second time out.”

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Newgarden provides pre-run lowdown. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

For Newgarden, having the chance to see a Supercross rider tackle an IndyCar was a cool thing to see. The Nashville native is a fairly big Supercross fan and tries to watch as many races as possible.

“It’s a super fun sport,” he said. “It’s extremely competitive and it’s actually very similar to IndyCar, where there are a lot of guys who can win every weekend.

“I love dirt bikes; they’re really cool vehicles. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it, but I’ve never driven anything on 2 wheels. Maybe the fantasy of it is why I like it.”

Newgarden did a good job of providing some behind-the-scenes shots via his social media accounts, as did IndyCar. More on this will likely come later this week.

UPDATE, Thursday, 9:45 a.m. ET: We have video! The topic shifts from simulators to scarves.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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